It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas out there ... but this is ridiculous, agrees Kenny Rogers, near the beginning of his 32nd holiday tour, due at Bloomington's U.S. Cellular Coliseum a week from today (Dec. 4). 

“Out there” is the Buffalo, N.Y., area, site of one of the worst New England snow dumps in history.

“We were there the night before it hit,” sighs the 76-year-old trouper, who's seen more than his share of weather-related events in a 60-year career spent largely getting from here to there and back.

"We almost took the bullet," he adds in that instantly familiar sandstone voice, sounding like a character from one of his hard-luck songs about county cowards and high rollers.

In fact, part of Rogers' stage crew was not on the road in time, and did get buried. But, hey, that's all part of the roll of the dice, the luck of the draw and all that jazz.

You've got to know when to hold 'em ... know when to fold 'em ... and, above all, know when to walk away.

Or hit the pavement running.

"For the last two years, we have not had one flake of snow; the three years before that, we were snowed in two different times."

You win some, you lose some.

But in the realm of pleasing crowds and himself, the annual "Christmas and Hits Through the Years Tour" is a straight flush, night after night, for the 35 shows packed into a tight window which opens in mid-November and closes a couple days before Dec. 25.

Just ask the U.S. Cellular Coliseum, who've invited Rogers back for a third time, after two previous holiday wins in 2006 and 2009.

Expect no earth-shattering alterations to a formula that works like a well-tooled illuminated lawn display: a first half of greatest career hits, of which there plenty to cherry-pick, followed by 15 minutes of intermission, and climaxed by Act Two, a full-on (with regards to a certain Pantagraph-sponsored event arriving 24 hours later) holiday spectacular, complete with backing kids' choir amassed from local school talent.

New to the mix will be special guest vocalist Linda Davis, fulfilling the essential role of duet partner for the star, whose career is studded with pairings, including his much-heralded reunion with numero uno partner Dolly Parton this year, "You Can't Make Old Friends."

The momentous occasion was up for a Musical Event of the Year Award three weeks ago at the Country Music Association Awards, but the two legends ceded victory to a couple striplings named Miranda Lambert and Keith Urban.

Rogers takes the loss of old guard to new with good spirits and a lot of well-earned understanding.

"I know how that game goes ... I've been doing it a long time," says the man whose mantle is sagging with more than its share of awards and honors (3 Grammys, 18 American Music Awards, 8 Academy of Country Music Awards, 5 CMAs, etc.).

"I knew someone young would get it," Rogers continues. "And that's OK ... I've had my moment in the sun.

"I know I loved doing the project. And I do think it was an event since it's such a great song, written by Don Schlitz, who wrote 'The Gambler.'"

And when it comes to musical sparring partners, there's no one quite like Dolly, says her greatest fan.

"So Dolly, who has no filters, comes up and puts her arm around me and says, 'I want to be the one who sings at your funeral.' Which I guess means I'll be going first ... bless her," laughs Rogers, who freely admits to packing filters.

"I have a BIG filter, and I could never say things the way Dolly does ... but nothing she says ever comes from anger, it all comes from the heart, and I just love her for it. If she says it, she means it."

As in: she WILL be the one singing at his funeral?

"Oh, yes!"

But at the clip Rogers has been going lately, that final pairing is likely quite a ways off: his memoir, "Luck or Something Like It," was published in 2012, which was followed by a novel, "What Are the Chances?" in 2013, which was followed by induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame (site of a new exhibit, "Kenny Rogers: Through the Years"), which followed his own hilarious Geico commercial in heavy rotation this past fall.

In the perfectly pitched 30-second spot, gray lion Rogers is seated at a table dealing cards, prefaced by the comment, "You know, playing cards with Kenny Rogers gets old pretty quick."

For living proof, Rogers is shown blithely serenading his trio of poker mates with an a cappella rendition of a certain signature song.

"Whaaat?" asks Rogers, mid-serenade, as the mates stare on.

"I get the gist," says one mate, re: knowing when to hold 'em, fold 'em, et al.

No coward of the county when it comes to doing commercials ("I've done spots for Dodge and Dole Pineapple," he reminds us), Rogers says he has to believe in a product and the presentation to lend his legend to it.

"They came to me with the idea, and I said I'd love to do it," followed by about 10 different stagings, all of them featuring Rogers speaking the lyrics to "The Gambler."

"Then I said, 'do me a favor, and let me sing it just once, with no accompaniment'," which resulted in the version that's drawn millions of YouTube hits.

"And I don't even gamble myself," he chuckles. "I can't win enough to excite me, but I do lose enough to depress me."

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